So, I should’ve felt that way before, I was much too slack in feeling secure and safe. Of course Jodec would know about everything which had to do with the family and with aunt Kridec and uncle Stetem. I’m such an idiot, how am I ever going to be a proper queen. Frankdamnit, they really chose the wrong person for the job. At least Jodec’s personal Skipping journal made up for any discomfort I felt at being disillusioned of safety. I couldn’t wait to get in to that. But first, we had some chocolate to inspect. We were on our way there, and I was lost in my own mind, when *sound of curtains sliding*
[Music in background]
This is Nadec, my adventure. Written down in a better way than I can tell it.
[Music louder and solo]
Ch 49: Frankdamnit
The quin jostled Nadec, Melia and Meralda all over the padded benches. The two men pulling the glorified rikshaw didn’t seem to care much about making it a smooth ride. Nadec had wanted to get a one-strongman-drawn quin, but Melia had gently explained the law about having one strongman per two passengers. Apparently it had become compulsory after a few too many accidents of strongmen overestimating themselves, causing them injuries. Nadec vaguely remembered Ayba mentioning it during the law induction.
Because it was a two-puller, the quin itself was larger, with a pair of benches facing each other, instead of one bench looking towards the strongmen. Nadec heard the men squabble as they jogged along. She wondered if their discussion caused the abrupt movements. Her mind wandered and she found herself lost in empty thoughts when Meralda pulled away the front curtain. She grimaced apologetically towards Nadec. ‘One of the men asked for it, it seems they want to talk.’
‘My ladies,’ the man on the right spoke loudly to them, not looking back. ‘Might you be willing to help us out with a moral discussion we are having?’
‘Of course, why not,’ Nadec’s reply came at the same time Melia said: ‘No.’
Nadec snorted and turned to Melia. ‘It’s still a long way to the chocolate production, right?’ Melia nodded with reluctance. ‘We might as well keep ourselves entertained. Go on,’ she yelled out to the strongmen. The same man continued.
‘Well, I’m certain you’ve heard of the fire in the Sixth Squarion. We merely can’t agree on—’
‘Wait,’ Nadec shouted. ‘What fire? I do not know what has happened, I have only just arrived.’
The men gave each other a look; they obviously didn’t believe her. But who were they to go against a lady, especially one as properly dressed as her, and with two servants?
‘An inn caught fire. The fire was so intense, it burned down many buildings around it. Now, my thoughts, it—’
‘What inn?’ Nadec and Melia asked at the same time.
The man who’d been speaking blew out, letting his lips flap around to produce a sound. Nadec held herself from chuckling at how much it sounded like a horse.
‘I think it was called the fictional flagon, wasn’t it?’ The other man chimed in, in a high voice at odds with his impressive figure.
‘Hmm, could be, could be.’ The first man replied.
‘The original dragon, was that it?’ Nadec felt her heart sink in her shoes. Her chest grew heavy and her cheeks taut.
‘Yes, yes, that was the one.’
The second man confirmed it had been Nadec’s previous inn. It seemed it had been a perfect idea to leave in the middle of the night. Foolish, foolish man, she thought towards the inn keeper.
‘Oh, my lady, do not worry, it is contained now, the fire still smolders, last I heard, but it won’t spread and shouldn’t kindle again. I did see the wreckage of the inn where it all started. Nothing is left. Nothing but a charred square pile, vaguely resembling a wooden base structure. You know, I am a big proponent of the new way of building, you know, using as little wood as possible and sticking to a lot of stone. This only proves why. The inn was the only building left in that street still constructed with mostly wood. I would bet it wouldn’t have burned as heavily if it had been one of the stone buildings. Because even though the ones around it did burn, their damage is much less. So you—’
‘I think that is quite enough, Jacka,’ the other man interjected, the one who’d spoken first. ‘Apologies my ladies, my brother does like to go on. He is a quiet type, but once he starts, and especially if it’s about buildings… Either way, what do you ladies think? I believe the fire had been an accident, probably something in the kitchen which went wrong, but my Jacka here believes it has been started on purpose, and that is why it burned so fiercely.’
The man said a few more things, but Nadec zoned out. There was no question in her mind what had happened. It certainly was no accident. She hoped the innkeeper and his servants hadn’t gotten hurt, or worse.
Nadec didn’t mingle much in the following discussion. She didn’t have to. Melia and Meralda defended the ‘purposely lit’ opinion well enough for the three of them. The man on the right, the one who had started it all, never changed his mind. He stubbornly kept to his own opinion, no matter what evidence or technically just claim the others gave. Nadec thought it especially stupid, knowing his brother’s knowledge about buildings.
When they stopped in front of a large building, the curtain had been drawn shut again, and stubborn silence filled the air in front of the quin. Jacka apologised for his brother’s behaviour, and offered to refund them part of the trip. That elicited at least a grunt from the other. Nadec refused and let them keep the money.
The building stretched multiple meters to either side of them, on the outside constructed of a long row of simple columns supporting an overarching ceiling. The covered area stood open, the space in between the columns easy to walk through. In awe, Nadec did so. It revealed a covered promenade. The wall across from the columns, the actual wall of the building, appeared full of drawings and paintings. Along the promenade, Nadec saw many indications of people having their sleeping places there.
‘This was Farenk’s idea,’ Melia’s voice held a measure of pride. ‘He noticed people were sleeping outside, even in the rain. He spoke to Mistress Kridec, and gained approval to allow them under the covered promenade. This building used to be an art collection house, but they moved to another place. As a tribute to that, Mistress Kridec and Master Stetem allowed any of the city’s artists to add a piece to the wall when they bought the building.’
‘That’s nice of them,’ Nadec acknowledged. ‘Come on, let’s go in.’
Melia fidgeted with her fingers, the nervousness Nadec had noticed during the quin ride suddenly peaking.
‘Mistress,’ she took a deep breath, ‘I want you to know, he could have let someone else pretend to be him to address you. But he did not. He wanted to be honest, because he believes you deserve it—and he is right about that, we spoke about this many times. Please mistress, keep that in mind. He is not a bad man. He wants to make things right.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Even though Nadec had no idea what Melia meant, a feeling of dread settled over her, prickling her skin and raising the hairs on her arms.
‘You will see, mistress. Please, remember my words.’ She pushed one side of the double door open.
The smell of chocolate wafted in Nadec’s face. She only now realised it had been there all along—no walls can keep divinity out—but now it assaulted her nostrils ten times as much. The intensity almost over turned it from sweet, delicious heaven, to an unbearable overload of sensation, enough to send the sense of smell into a panic. The room they entered obviously functioned as an entry hall. Nadec reminded herself that her aunt had received the method and recipe for chocolate making from her mother. Which meant all of the procedures and ways of working would be similar to Earth’s, including hygiene.
The man at the desk looked up and smiled broadly. ‘Why hello Melia. We have been expecting you and your guests.’ He made a deep bow. ‘Welcome all. I will call Farenk. Please take a seat.’
He pointed towards a row of comfortable looking chairs against the wall opposite from him. Exactly like on earth, Nadec thought. The man reached behind him and pulled a tassel hanging from a thick cord.
It didn’t take long for the door next to the desk to open. If Nadec hadn’t been sitting, she probably would have collapsed to the floor from all the strength leaving her legs.
‘Impossible.’ The whispered word barely came out.
Farenk smiled at her. The same smile he’d always smiled when he knew he’d done something she didn’t like, but still wanted her to keep liking him. Especially paired with hunched shoulders and tucked chin, he knew she used to think it too cute to stay upset. Nadec had always disliked the way it manipulated her, while still working to his advantage.
‘Frank, I… What… How ?’ She squeezed her eyes and shook her head. Not this as well. How many more emotional punches would she be able to bear until she snapped completely, until she broke and couldn’t find her way back out of it? Not this. This couldn’t be real. He’d disappeared not long after her parent’s funeral. She sometimes thought something had happened to him too.
‘No, that’s not true,’ she murmured. She opened her eyes, a fire awakened. ‘I wanted to believe something happened. But in truth, I did always assume you just left me. Too much of a coward to deal with a griefing me. But you’re here? How? Why? Frankdamn! I still curse on your name, never been able to rid myself of that stupid habit.’
The smile which had been leaving him, returned.
‘You do? That’s hilarious.’ He swallowed as he saw her face grow dark. ‘I suppose when you do it these days, it’s no longer just a jeste to avoid saying god, but a genuine curse? Alright,’ he clapped his hands together. ‘Melia, do you want to take your friend here to the packing station, perhaps you ladies might be able to find something to do there? Nadec, please, if you will follow me, we have some matters to discuss.’
You have been listening to Nadec, chapter 48 No Safety
Narrated, adventured and lived through by myself, Nadec. Written in a better way than I can tell it, by Astrid Jef.
[Psst, hey, hi, it’s me, no, not Nadec, it’s Astrid. Just wanted to say hello to all the new listeners, and welcome to the story, even though we’re nearing the end. Don’t worry, we still have quite a few episodes to go. And hello to Patrick and Cheyenne, I see you. This story is a free audio book in podcast format, and it’s nearing 80 000 words, which is awesome. It’s free for everyone to listen, and read on my website astridjef.com. If you’d like to support me, of course the best way is to share the podcast around, rate and review, but now there’s also the option for a small donation. The platform is called buy me a coffee, but in reality for me it’s more of buy me a home made soy matcha latte. Every small contribution helps pay for the hosting costs of the podcast. If you can spare as little as $3, find me on buymeacoffee.com/astridjef. Everyone who does gets a little shout out in the following episode. Thank you so much for listening, and see you next week!)
Don’t go just yet, we’ve got bloopers coming up. [music on background]